My friend the supermodel
Evening Gazette 05/03/03 By
is the amazing story of a cash-strapped Teesside athlete and the
rich supermodel who magically became her fairy godmother.
One is the tall
and dazzling Aussie catwalk queen, Elle 'The Body' MacPherson. Married
to wealthy French banker, Arpad Busson, she has two young sons and
a posse of staff at luxury homes around the world.
The other is
tiny former bus driver Sharon Gayter, Teesside's gutsy extreme distance
runner, now days into an epic, six-week endurance run.
Married to lorry
driver Bill, she lives in a modest Guisborough semi, has two lively
dogs and works to pay for her sport.
The only thing
the women seem to share is their age. Both are 39.
Yet the supermodel
and the 24-hour runner became friends after a chance meeting at
a North Yorkshire castle.
And now Elle
is sponsoring Sharon's running to the tune of £13,000 a year.
Sharon was called in to soothe away pregnant mum Elle's stresses
envy of every male we know because I've seen Elle in the nude,"
birth to her new baby Aurelius at the beginning of February and
I can say I massaged him when he was a bump! It was a real privilege
to feel the baby move as I gently massaged her tummy."
call had a fairytale end for Sharon when Elle and her husband heard
about Sharon's athletic talent.
They were shocked
to hear she had to work to keep on running. And decided to help
Now sexy underwear
company Elle MacPherson Intimates has sealed a deal to sponsor everything
from Sharon's travelling expenses to the trainers she pounds through
at the rate of a pair a month.
Sharon may laugh
at the thought of wearing desirable flimsies when she's running.
But what she
is excited about is a brand-new custom-made kit from the company's
top designers and enough money to feel on easy street.
deal is a dream come true for Sharon, sheer guts have made her Britain's
No 1 women's ultra- distance runner and 100 kilometre champ.
She fought back
to fitness after a horrific ankle injury in a bike accident threatened
The money meant
she could head off for warm weather training in Elle's native Australia
and not worry about the cost of buying 12 pairs of trainers a year.
The trip boosted
her chances in the Flora 1,000-mile Challenge, which kicked off
on Sunday and ends on April 13 at the finishing line of the London
Billed as the
toughest endurance race ever staged, entry is by invitation only
and Sharon is desperate to win.
from Elle is a huge weight off the shoulders of the hard-working
up looking for support because I've always been knocked back,"
I wasn't looking, it was handed to me on a plate."
started with a phone call before Christmas to the mobile sports
massage business Sharon runs with Bill, who keeps his wife's super-tuned
body in peak condition. Both are qualified sports masseurs.
A voice asked
if she would be available for eight-weeks to massage away the aches
and pains of guests at a shooting party at Mulgrave Castle, near
all very hush-hush at the time," laughs Sharon. "But of
course I said yes."
When she arrived,
the reason for the cloak and dagger stuff was clear. Elle and Arpad
turned out to be the high-profile couple who had hired the castle
for the season with guests including royalty, show-biz celebrities
firmly mum on the names, insisting she would be breaking a confidence.
are very busy people who are used to having their every whim attended
to, but Elle and Arpad are so down-to-earth and nice," says
gorgeous little boy Flynn was there and though there are nannies,
Elle is just like any mother looking after him. He'd peed his pants
one day and she just scooped him up and rushed off to change him.
do live in another world. For instance, they hired a private jet
every week for £3,700 to fly back to London on business.
is a chef and personal assistants and they have homes everywhere
in fantastic places.
during the massage they wanted to talk, but other times they just
wanted to relax and chill out because they get very tense."
It was Arpad
who first floated the sponsorship idea to his wife after Sharon
said she dreamed of being a full-time athlete.
"We talked about my running and the next time I went, he said
he hadn't realised how successful I was.
surprised to hear I worked to pay for my running and said to write
down my expenses and he'd see what he could do.
I let it go, but he persisted and so Bill and I worked out a list
him sponsoring any part of the cost, like my trainers, would be
great. But they decided to cover everything."
to live on Teesside as a 25 year old in search of a better life.
She and her
brother and sister had a difficult childhood after their mother
to come home from school and hide away," she admits. "I
was very withdrawn because of my family life."
Even now, she
wishes her mother would show pride in her achievements as her sister
and family do.
When she was
eking out a living on a bus driver's wage in a bedsit in Cambridge,
Sharon decided to go for something better.
By then the
asthmatic schoolgirl - so unsporty she even hated cycling to school
- had become hooked on running.
In her first
office job, she watched a sixty-something colleague blast through
a marathon when she couldn't even jog the half mile to the start.
He bought her a pair of trainers for Christmas and she felt so guilty,
she went out and ran.
"I moved because of family circumstances, but also because
housing is so expensive in Cambridge.
to do something drastic to change my life, so I toured the country
literally looking for somewhere better to live.
it down to Cumbria and Teesside, and Teesside won because I loved
the hills and housing was cheap."
in Grangetown and groans: "Two days after moving in I realised
wheels on my car were pinched."
She got a job
as a bus driver and met Bill, a driver too, who had just left the
everything to me," says Sharon devotedly. "He supports
me in everything I do."
admits children would have restricted a life that they greatly enjoy.
about it before we married," says Sharon. "One reason
was my childhood, but being able to lead the life we do was the
don't think coming up to 40 it will happen."
was beaten up for her bus takings by yobs, it was Bill who encouraged
her to follow another dream and take a sports' science degree at
Then he too
left the buses after being assaulted, for the life of a long-distance
lorry driver, while Sharon went on to lecture at Middlesbrough College.
She always runs
20 miles a day and during term time, training was the run from Guisborough
to college and back again.
Now Bill and
Sharon have put their jobs on hold to prepare for the six-week Flora
marathon and hope to build up their mobile sports massage business
that has been such a hit with Elle and co.
including paralympic Tanni Grey Thompson from Redcar, as well as
many average Teessiders, find it helps their mobility.
The pair love
running through the beautiful countryside around Guisborough or
taking dogs, Bouncer and Walnut, for walks.
regretted coming here," smiles Sharon.
during the next six weeks is billed as the country's toughest endurance
Her sleep patterns
will be wrecked as she battles through 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours
at no more than a mile an hour.
That means she
will get at the most one-and-a-half hours sleep at a stretch.
The Flora 1,000
Mile Challenge is modelled on one 200 years ago when Captain Robert
Barclay won 1,000 guineas (a guinea is £1, one shilling) in
Sharon is one
of five other pre-selected competitors who set out on the challenge
The killer sting
in the tail is having to run the 26.2 mile Flora London Marathon
before reaching the finishing line.
Bill is the
key member of Sharon's support team and their base will be a London
bus following them on the marathon route.
will get £6 for every mile completed and a £1,000 bonus
will go to those clocking under seven hours for the London Marathon
and the first man and woman over the line will get another £3,000
really want to win it all," says a determined Sharon.
* Follow her
progress by logging onto www.sharongayter.com
So how does
Sharon Gayter keep on running and running?
Her sports science
degree helped Sharon understand what she needed to be the country's
No 1 endurance runner.
Her diet is
70pc carbohydrate, 15pc fat and 15pc protein.
She admits it
used to be 50pc carbohydrate and has been amazed how her performance
levels soared after making the switch.
make a huge 30pc difference, she says, having studied the diets
of the nation's top five athletes.
This is Sharon's
Weetabix or two slices of wholemeal toast or porridge.
AFTERNOON: Loads of snacks to keep up energy levels - fruit and
nuts. "I'm a great snacker," says Sharon.
on toast and a yogurt or jacket potato.
tikka with rice or spaghetti bolognaise.
least 20 miles a day round the hills near Guisborough.
weight-training as well as Pilates and Yoga classes to keep the
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